Happy New Year! As you make plans, goals, and new year’s resolutions for 2019, you may be thinking about your smile. This year, don’t be afraid to prioritize your health and happiness. While there are many ways to improve your confidence and quality of life, your smile is a great place to start.
In the age of modern technology, we know that going to a board-certified orthodontist isn’t the only option you have when choosing a path toward your dream smile. As the technology in our clinics has advanced, many other options have developed and entered the market. Over the past few years, mail-order braces also referred as Do It Yourself (DIY) braces have become increasingly available to the public. Mail-order braces generally involve a system of clear aligners, similar to the ones used in orthodontic practices, that are sent directly to the clients’ house without in-office appointments. DIY braces come in many different forms, some involve individuals placing rubber bands around their teeth in order to close gaps or otherwise adjust their teeth without professional supervision. Videos about DIY methods of smile correction are all over YouTube, often created and uploaded by minors and geared toward other young people.
As orthodontists, our first priority is the satisfaction of our patients, and we believe that the best results can be achieved through specialized orthodontic clinics. However, we do understand the appeal of nontraditional smile correction. We decided to dive deeper into this topic in order to inform you of the pro, cons, and truths about at-home or mail-order treatment and DIY braces.
Why Choose At-home/mail-order/DIY Treatment?
Consumers usually begin researching non-traditional smile correction options for two primary reasons: cost and convenience.
These concerns are very common and understandable, especially considering today’s economy and the speed of busy modern life. At first glance, it can appear as though mail-order braces will be less expensive than traditional orthodontic care.
Some mail-order aligners boast sticker prices as low as a one-time payment of $1,850 or offer monthly payment plans that equate to roughly the same amount. This figure is lower than the average cost of most common clinical clear aligners, such as Invisalign aligners, which can range from $3,000 to $8,000 and include consultations and check-ups with your orthodontist in their clinic.
The other common reason mail-order braces appeal to potential clients is the convenience factor. Typically, clients are only asked to visit an office once, at the beginning of their treatment, to get their initial impressions taken. Some companies even offer an at-home impression kit, which allows clients to take their own impressions and mail them in. Compared to more traditional treatment plans, which can involve appointments every 6-8 weeks, it may seem as though mail-order kits can save clients a lot of time. However, as we will further discuss later, these conveniences may not actually save you time in the long run. For example, what if you have trouble taking your own impressions, or your aligners come in the mail and do not fit properly?
The amount of time you spend on the phone with customer service working out issues that would normally be handled by your orthodontist will add up. Many clients are also drawn in by the promise of online systems for orders and payments promised by these services, without realizing that many orthodontic practices offer the same or similar convenient services.
These truths, compounded with the additional challenges that mail-order or DIY braces present, often negate the perceived benefits of these services.
The Risks of At-home/mail-order/DIY Braces Treatment
It is important to remember that not all issues can be efficiently solved with clear aligners. This is true even when a board-certified orthodontist is involved with in-person care. Some mail-order brands do begin treatment with a remote consultation based on the client’s impressions, and are able to advise whether or not their system will be able to effectively address the client’s needs. However, this conversation is not as in-depth and careful as a consultation with an orthodontist, who can see your teeth in person and utilize the modern technology available in their office to help determine the best treatment plan for you.
Individuals who choose mail order aligners instead of professional orthodontic care are treated as customers rather than patients. As such, they are guided through the process by customer service representatives rather than board certified orthodontists.
Imagine going to a five star restaurant and asking the hostess to cook your steak for you. It simply doesn’t make any sense. Orthodontists are medical professionals who have undergone several years of necessary training in order to safely and effectively correct smiles.
Here is a journey of one of our patients from thinking about mail ordered services to seeking treatment at our clinic.
“When I was doing my initial research about aligners, I was overwhelmed with the number of mail order companies. They seemed to be offering the same thing, so I made sure to look at the reviews. I found that Candid Co had the best reviews, but there was nothing about fixing bites or anything out of the ordinary.
I am so glad I ended up going through an orthodontist for this process. I was not ever made aware of my bite issue when Candid Co was evaluating my impressions. I know now that I would not have been happy with the results from a mail in service. I have felt secure every step of the way having an expert evaluate my teeth every 3-4 weeks, an assurance I never would have received with a mail in service. I tell everyone who is interested about my experience with Porth and how easy AND affordable the process has been! My advice would be to definitely go through an orthodontist, it was the same price and I got SO much more from my investment in Porth than I ever would have from Candid Co or any other box.”
The Question of Cost
Earlier, we mentioned the disparity in advertised cost of treatment between orthodontic treatment and mail-order braces. In truth, the actual cost of the two is often comparable, especially when your orthodontist offers a payment plan.
Another factor to consider is the potential for failure of treatment or dissatisfaction with results. Many mail-order braces and DIY braces users end up having to go to an orthodontist after their treatment to correct issues that were created by the aligners. Because they essentially go through two treatments, they end up paying for treatment twice and spending even more money than one treatment plan from an orthodontist would have cost.
The same is true for other DIY techniques to correct your dental problems. It may seem less expensive to simply put rubber bands around your teeth instead of seeking professional care, but this can actually cause a lot of expensive damage. In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists reports that that almost 13 percent of its member orthodontists are seeing patients who have tried do-it-yourself teeth straightening, including many who have suffered irreparable damage caused by the treatment.
While there are many risks and potential problems with mail order aligners, it should be noted that there are some cases in which this DIY option can in fact correct smiles. If the issues you are seeking to correct are very minor, such as a couple of slightly crooked teeth or one small gap, DIY aligners could potentially give you the results you are seeking. The twist is that you never know. Some looks very simple issues stem from a very complicated origin – skeletal problems or size of upper and lower front teeth are not matching.
Most mail-order braces brands share positive testimonials and success stories on their websites and social media platforms. Orthodontists do the same! If you are researching options for mail-order braces, be sure to seek out objective, non-sponsored reviews of the brand you are considering.
In any case, we recommend that you consult with an orthodontist before making a decision, and continue to see your dentist for regular checkups throughout your treatment to ensure the health and safety of your teeth and gums.
Disclaimer: This blog post providers information and merely reflects Dr. Rooz Khosravi’s expert opinion. You should consult with a dentist or an orthodontist prior to following any advice suggested here.
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